The Sea Turtles 911 Volunteer Internship Program (VIP) provides college students and young professionals hands-on experience working on the 'frontlines' of endangered species conservation and research, which has been featured in Yale University's magazine. Students gain unique experiences living near the ocean immersed in a different culture, working with marine animals, educating the public about endangered species conservation, and giving back to the community. The program is developed by marine turtle experts on the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and includes thorough instruction and training on sea turtle biology and conservation so that students may receive college credit from their university upon approval.
Interns will work under the supervision of our knowledgeable team and once the intern has gained adequate instruction, they will be asked to perform many tasks independently or in teams. They can gain experience in all areas of the organization, but will maintain a focused area to develop through their own interests and creativity in one of three categories: education outreach, scientific research, and marketing communications. This is designed to challenge interns to find their niche and passion to make a unique contribution to the conservation of marine turtles.
As a student in this program, you will be able to:
- Gain field research experience as you record observations of sea turtles and their habitats in natural environments.
- Hone your data analysis and research writing skills as you work on sea turtle research publications.
- Develop program coordination experience as you implement ecotourism programs with the tourism industry.
- Improve your communication and writing skills as you engage in public relations, fundraising, social media, grant writing, and event planning.
- Build confidence in public speaking as you visit schools to give presentations about the importance of saving sea turtles.
- Practice your teaching skills as you educate and train people to become citizen scientists for sea turtle research.
- Immerse yourself in other cultures as you work with international volunteers and the local community through public outreach activities.
Interns in educational tourism tackle the challenges of creating effective programs which not only imparts information, but also inspires the participants to action. They maintain communication with other students, teachers, and the local community; create lesson plans, activities, and educational materials; and provide conservation education 'in the field' as well as in the classroom. By working with local schools and businesses, EDU interns promote marine conservation in the local community at public events, such as community beach clean-ups and invasive algae clean-ups, to raise awareness on how important sea turtles are to our planet and the threats they are currently facing.
EDU interns will contribute to the development and implementation of events and educational programs, including community events, volunteer recruitment and training, school field trips and visits, and ecotourism programs. They will work with tour agencies to develop and implement ecotourism itineraries for tourists interested in voluntourism, green travel, and wildlife animals, with the ultimate goal of cultivating community support for sea turtle conservation. Through tourism partnerships, EDU interns will have the opportunity to educate more people about the challenges in protecting sea turtles and possible solutions to address them. In Hawaii, sea turtles can be frequently seen in both the near shore waters and on land along coastal beaches, and these higher rates of direct encounters with people provide immediate meaningful experiences, lending opportunities for EDU interns to educate tourists on the conservation issues threatening their survival.
EDU interns working in this area would help develop and implement education programs, activities, and events, in the local community or hotel resorts. Depending on the location, this could include providing guests with sea turtle conservation presentations, activities, events, and eco tours. Furthermore, interns may assist in building partnerships with organizations, governments, media, and celebrities, to support conservation activities and events. Some of our past events include:
To advance sea turtle conservation, conducting research in all aspects of the biology of sea turtles is important to the scientific community, management agencies, and conservation organizations throughout the world. RA interns will contribute to the expansion of sea turtle conservation through scientific investigations. Interns are encouraged to design new research projects or work on current research projects with graduate students and professors.
Around the world, sea turtles only come ashore on beaches to lay eggs; however, in addition to egg laying, sea turtles in Hawaii naturally rest on beaches too. This terrestrial basking behavior is not quite understood; therefore, interns in Hawaii have the opportunity to monitor this rare behavioral adaption, not commonly observed globally. Since the scales on each side of a sea turtle's head and flippers are unique like fingerprints of humans, RA interns in Hawaii will be involved in computer assisted Photo-ID (PID) to re-identify individual sea turtles, monitoring movement trends and habitat use of the basking turtle individuals. Please read the photo identification research page for more details.
Interns will be able to use a variety of research equipment to collect data to study which ecological factors influence this basking behavior. All research activities are done in a non-invasive manner so that the sea turtle is never disturbed. For example, we point infrared thermal cameras at the turtle from a distance to collect temperature data of the turtle, instead of inserting temperature loggers directly into the turtle. As a second example, we utilize novel photogrammetry methods to estimate the body size of the turtle, instead of the traditional way of restraining the animal to measure directly with a ruler. Since we will not be handling the wildlife animal, the risk of injury is dramatically reduced for both turtle and human; these non-invasive methods to collect data ensure the safety of the researchers involved.
RA interns may also have the opportunity to practice operating unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), or remote controlled drones, to monitor sea turtles in the wild. This new technology is a cost-effective way to document sea turtles for many conservation management programs around the world. Our research team has deployed satellite tracking tags to learn more about sea turtle migrations - where they breed, where they eat, and where they are spending most of their time so that we can support government policies to establish marine protected areas to save them. With our research partners from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), City University of Hong Kong, and Hainan Normal University, we have published research on satellite tracking of sea turtles. Aside from conducting research in the field or lab, it is essential that young scientists hone their ability to communicate their research ideas and findings through scientific writing. RA interns will spend time reviewing literature, analyzing data, and writing papers for possible publication or project proposals for research grants.
U.S. Ambassador and Senator Max Baucus (left) volunteers for Sea Turtles 911.
Volunteers and interns interview NBA basketball celebrity Yao Ming (left) to raise awareness for sea turtle conservation.
Since the dinosaur age, sea turtles have lived through the times of many civilizations, accumulating cultural value for many communities around the world. This makes the species an ideal medium for international media, celebrities, and renowned leaders, to inspire wildlife oceanic appreciation amongst people from different cultural backgrounds. As marine turtles naturally migrate through waters of many countries, defying political and geographic boundaries, they act as the natural ambassadors of the world, capable of uniting different countries with the common goal of saving sea turtles. At the highest national levels, the U.S. Department of State and China's Central Government supports Sea Turtles 911 and Hainan Normal University through the U.S.-China EcoPartnership to advance sea turtle conservation to international importance, thereby opening the doors to worldwide recognition. Under the auspices of the bilateral partnership, interns will engage in various methods of marketing communications to raise public awareness for sea turtle protection and conservation globally.
Sea turtles are naturally charismatic species that attract good public attention for their gentle and cute appeal. Supporting sea turtle conservation has the great potential to influence the public image of individuals and branding of organizations. MARCOM interns will leverage the natural appeal of sea turtles as a flagship species to raise funds and public awareness for marine conservation. Interns will develop and implement social media marketing campaigns on various platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They will create media content, including photos and videos, to advance the project's public communications message. MARCOM interns may communicate with news agencies and assist in developing press releases to highlight events and project milestones. Essentially, MARCOM interns will become the voice for the sea turtles, speaking for the increased protection and conservation of the species through public communications as one of the organization's spokesperson. In the past, interns have worked with celebrities and professional journalists from international media organizations:
Sea Turtles 911 provides interns with the unique opportunity to live and work on the tropical island of Hawaii for a grassroots conservation organization. Due to the structure of the organization on the island and the set-up of various programs, interns may frequently find themselves outside of the direct observation of their supervisors. Interns are expected to be responsible for maintaining regular communication with supervisors and other volunteers to work as a team and/or independently, and guidance provided whenever interns ask for help.
For interns in Hawaii, the accessibility of nature and the Aloha spirit of the Polynesian culture is part of Hawaii's allure but it is important to approach this opportunity with a realistic attitude. Interns can expect to gain field experience observing behaviors of endangered sea turtles from the beach and from the water; they will not be directly touching the turtles since we want to keep nature undisturbed as much as possible. The frequency of sea turtle sightings in Hawaii's natural environment provides increased encounters with wild sea turtles, which is not often available anywhere else in the world.
Applicants must have a sense of adventure, be comfortable in new cultures and be able to work efficiently with others. Although interns will have projects they will be focusing on during their term, much of their day-to-day work will originate on an as-needed and opportunity basis. 'Island Time' dictates plans may change frequently with irregular schedules becoming normal. Interns must be flexible and relaxed to the ever-changing requirements of the organization, its program participants, and its partners in conservation.
NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming, student of Shanghai Jiaotong University, receives certificate from Sea Turtles 911.
Since we are a non-profit charity, we rely on program fees to cover the costs of the internship for student volunteers who wish to be part of the journey to save sea turtles. The amount of the program fee varies depending on whether students require our assistance in providing housing and transportation. Living on a tropical island can be expensive, so we try to work with students to minimize costs and expenses. Since 2010, students have received scholarships to enroll in the Sea Turtles 911 internship program, such as from Oregon State University.
Upon completion of the program, graduated students will receive an official certificate with an unique quick response (QR) code, which can be scanned to verify authenticity of the document. Student graduates can also have their names listed on our website, which further confirms their participation in the program when they list this work experience on their resume for future job opportunities.
Sylvia Earle and Frederick Yeh, Founding Director of Sea Turtles 911.
To apply for this volunteer internship, complete the Program Registration Form and send your resume and cover letter to: email@example.com. The program requires a minimum of four (4) weeks with acceptance open throughout the year. In your cover letter, please indicate which locations you are interested in.
As the world faces more environmental issues as human populations increase, global challenges will only increase. Students should have the basic environmental conservation knowledge and volunteer experience to solve these issues as global conscious citizens aiming for long-term sustainable growth of our planet. Since the field of environmental protection encompasses many areas of expertise, students with career interests which expand into a variety of fields are encouraged to apply. Environmental degradation and loss of species in today's world is occurring at an alarming rate, making it imperative that governments and industries act now to reverse the damage being done to our planet. Many companies and agencies look for students with distinct knowledge and experience in conservation to integrate into their long-term goals of sustainable growth and social responsibility. As living legend Sylvia Earle asked, "Our near and distant predecessors might be forgiven for exterminating the last woolly mammoth, the ultimate dodo, the final sea cow, and the last living monk seal for lack of understanding the consequences of their actions. But who will forgive us if we fail to learn from past and present experiences, to forge new values, new relationships, a new level of respect for the natural systems that keep us alive?"